Amar'e Stoudemire is a big reason why the Phoenix Suns are in position to match their longest winning streak in just over a year while getting closer to returning to the playoffs.
A visit from the New York Knicks should keep Stoudemire and the Suns rolling.
Phoenix looks to win its sixth straight game while continuing home dominance over the Knicks on Friday night.
Stoudemire is connecting on 58.7 percent of his shots to average 30.8 points while adding 10.0 rebounds over the last 11 games, helping the Suns (45-26) to eight victories.
"He's been great," coach Alvin Gentry said of the forward, who leads the team with 22.9 points and 8.8 boards per game. "We try to take advantage of situations where they try to put undersized guys on him.
"He's come through for us big time. He's played great.The last month and a half, I think he's been the best player in the NBA."
Stoudemire backed up that praise Monday, hitting 12 of 15 shots from the field for 37 points while pulling down eight rebounds in a 133-131 win at Golden State that extended the Suns' winning streak to five.
Phoenix, the league leader in scoring with 110.1 points per game, hasn't won six straight since March 14-25, 2009.
The Suns, also winners of 10 of 12 at home, appear to be on their way to returning to the playoffs after a one-year absence. They're fifth in the Western Conference, 7 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Memphis with 11 to play.
Phoenix trails fourth-place Utah by 1 1/2 games for home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Suns could gain ground with a seventh consecutive home win over New York (26-45). They've won 15 of the last 19 home meetings with the Knicks, including a 111-103 victory on Dec. 15, 2008 when Stoudemire had 21 points and 14 rebounds.
However, he was held to 14 points and five boards in a 126-99 loss at New York on Dec. 1.
The Knicks need to complete their first season sweep of the Suns since 2002-03 and get plenty of help the rest of the way to avoid being eliminated from postseason contention.
They're 9 1/2 games behind eighth-place Toronto with 11 games left. A loss to Phoenix combined with a Raptors' win against Denver will keep New York from reaching the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.
The Knicks have won four of six after beating Denver 109-104 on Tuesday. However, they've dropped 11 of 14 on the road and are opening a five-game trip.
Danilo Gallinari will try to continue his strong stretch. The forward is averaging 26.3 points over the last three games after getting 28 against the Nuggets.
Coach Mike D'Antoni is also impressed with Gallinari's strong defensive game.
"He's a good perimeter defender and he takes pressure or whatever," D'Antoni told the team's official Web site. "He's 6-foot-10, he keeps his feet in front of guys and he does a good job on point guards, guards and (small forwards). He works at it."
Gallinari had 27 points and 10 rebounds against Phoenix in December.
How come every team has a center that could rebound and block shots except for the Knicks?
Mar 26, 2010, 22:20
Voted F no, althought I would like Bosh so I agree with that vote, I am adament on not wanting Amare. I realize he's played well but think he's the most overrated FA possibility out there and think he shouldn't pass on 17 mill guarunteed or whatever he's got on option. I think Nash helped greatly to make him, he's a high fly guy with sick dunks, average jumper and equally pisspoor defense as Lee for a guy with better athletic ability. If he'd take a 7 mill paycut I'd take him otherwise no thanks lol. He's good but not close to max guy IMO, and would kill our hopes at 15 mill +. Anyhow thoughts on game, halftime down quite a bit but feel we're not playing well, could come back but most defend well because all we normally need is shot making, but against Suns getting hot won't cut it down as we are, will need a decent string of stops too cuz even if we light it up they still score. I killed Gallinari a few weeks back but I say now he needs to be featured more and I think McGrady as well but we'll see. Chuckington... I share a love as I think he truly has heart and wants to be here which I respect, but everytime he gets ball I get nervous as I expect a bad shot... idk maybe just me. We're going nowhere but if we could stay semi hot and hit 34-35 wins I'd be able to temporarily flex like I was Metro
"Steve's balls are so close...I can almost feel them"
Mar 26, 2010, 22:49
Gallo defending Nash is why this Knick team has become a JOKE (20 point lead all game).
6.10 Gallo suppose to be defending 6.10 Amare, or 6.11 Lopez, or 6.11 Frye.
Damntoni & Gallo has made this Knick Team a JOKE of the NBA
One minute left in the 3rd qtr.
Mar 26, 2010, 22:58
So NOW D'Antoni decides to play McGrady in the fourth quarter, in a blowout?
Mar 26, 2010, 23:05
Ladies and gentleman, these are the bi-polar Knicks.They blow out the Mavericks, nearly beat the Rockets, beat the Denver Nuggets but get blown out by a team that plays slightly better defense than the Phoenix Mercury.